A 51-year-old Danish tourist was gang-raped near a popular shopping area in New Delhi on Tuesday after she got lost and approached a group of men for directions to her hotel, police said Wednesday.
The attack is the latest crime to focus attention on sexual violence in India, a problem that drew international attention following the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in December 2012.
Thousands of urban Indians took to the streets in fury after the 2012 attack. The Indian woman became a symbol of dangers women face in a country where a rape is reported on average every 21 minutes and incidents of molestation are common.
In the latest case, the Danish woman was also beaten and robbed after she asked the men for directions to her hotel, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said. The assailants lured her to a secluded area where they raped her at knifepoint, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
The woman managed to reach her hotel that evening and the owner called the police, who announced their first arrests late Wednesday over the alleged gang rape, with two homeless men detained in connection with the sex crime.
"Two person(s) have been arrested in connection with rape case with Danish national," read a statement from the police, which said both men were "vagabonds" at a New Delhi railway station.
One of the men, a 25-year-old originally from neighboring Uttar Pradesh state, had an iPod music player belonging to the victim in his possession when arrested, the statement said.
The victim refused a medical examination and has since left India to return to Denmark, police said.
The December 2012 gang rape heightened awareness of the problem of sexual violence in India and spurred more stringent laws, with the prison term for rape doubled to 20 years and the criminalization of voyeurism and stalking.
Still, for many women, particularly the poor, daily indignities and abuse continue unabated and the new laws have not made the streets much safer.
Ranjana Kumari, director of India's Center for Social Research, said India's conservative, patriarchal traditions lead men to use rape as a tool to instill fear in women.
"This mindset is not changing," she said. "It's a huge challenge."
Experts say the rapid growth of India's cities and the widening gulf between rich and poor exacerbate the problem of sexual violence, with young men struggling to prove their traditional dominance in a changing world.
Cultural stigmas, police apathy and judicial incompetence have long made it difficult for women to even report rapes.
Nonetheless, there has been a surge in the number of rapes being reported recently, suggesting that women are emboldened to speak up. Between January and October of last year, 1,330 rapes were reported in Delhi and its suburbs, compared with 706 for all of 2012, according to government figures.
A study by India's Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry said that foreign tourist visits to India dropped 25 percent in the three months after the rape and murder of the Delhi woman. Tourist visits by women fell by 35 percent.
Al Jazeera and wire services
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